Maritzburg United forced to face champions Mamelodi Sundowns as Premiership survival hangs in the balance

Maritzburg will have their work cut out for them at Loftus on Tuesday.

Maritzburg will have their work cut out for them at Loftus on Tuesday. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

Published May 16, 2023


Cape Town - Maritzburg United's appeal to the PSL to change the date of their Premiership fixture against champions Mamelodi Sundowns has fallen on deaf ears.

As a result, Sundowns will host Maritzburg on Tuesday at Loftus in what will be both teams’ final league match of the season.

The fixture was meant to be played on Saturday when all 16 teams would have been in action. But as a result of Sundowns' Caf Champions League commitments, the PSL brought the game forward by four days and after the match, the league trophy will be presented to the Brazilians.

Maritzburg played last Saturday as well as all the other relegation-threatened teams (Chippa United and Marumo Gallants). However, whereas Maritzburg are forced to play three days later, the other bottom teams will have a much longer break and only play on Saturday.

“We have been disappointed," said Maritzburg chairperson Farook Kadodia. "We made a request to the PSL for all matches to be played at the same time - the Gallants, Chippa and our game, but they refused.

“The whole idea of PSL is fair play, and this is not fair play. Whatever reasons they gave us on why they cannot change that, are not acceptable.”

There is a school of thought that Sundowns will be in a festive mood because they will be crowned champions and receive the league trophy. That could turn out to be a blessing for Maritzburg because they could sneak in with a draw or even win.

Maritzburg coach Fadlu Davids is also unhappy about playing before the other relegation candidates are in action. He feels once the Maritzburg-Sundowns match is known, the other two teams will have a clear idea of what they need to avoid relegation.

“Let’s say for instance we (Maritzburg) lose, and then both teams play for a draw. It is something we don’t expect will happen. If you play at the same time, these types of things will not go through your mind,” said Davids.

While the relegation spectre looms large over the Maritzburg camp, Sundowns are thinking about Premiership records as they close out their sixth consecutive league title win.

One record in striking distance is the most points in a 30-game season by the championship club. The record of 71 points in a season was set by Pitso Mosimane’s teams in the 2015-16 reason. Sundowns are presently on 69 points after 29 games and that could become 72 after the Maritzburg game.

In the 2015-16 season, Sundowns set a record of 22 wins in a 30-game season. With 21 wins this season, the team could match that mark with victory on Tuesday.

Sundowns set a new mark for best goal difference last season with +36 and currently sit on +39, so unless they suffer a heavy defeat, they will better that number, perhaps by quite a bit.

Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango has now claimed 10 league titles in South Africa, a record and one that will take some beating. The first three of those came in the colours of SuperSport United, before winning seven with Sundowns.

He might have had one more too, but was sent on loan to Wits when Sundowns won the title in 2013-14.

In the spirit of celebration, Sundowns may field Onyango between the sticks and rest first-choice keeper Ronwen Williams.